Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Keith Hunter Jesperson

Guilty Pleas

In October 1995, just before his trial was slated to begin, Keith Jesperson pleaded guilty to the murder of Julie Ann Winningham before Clark County, Washington Superior Court Judge Robert L. Harris.  Harris, the same judge who presided over the Westley Allan Dodd case, would sentence Jesperson to life in prison in December following proceedings in Oregon.

Jesperson at Oregon Penetentiary (King)
Jesperson at Oregon
Penetentiary (King)

Meanwhile, Jesperson waived extradition from Clark County and was transferred to Oregon.  On Thursday, November 2, 1995, after waiving all of his rights, he entered a no contest plea before Multnomah County Presiding Judge Donald H. Londer for the murder of Taunja Bennett.  Londer immediately sentenced Jesperson to life in prison, setting a minimum 30-year prison term before being eligible for parole.  Londers sentence, in effect, gave Jesperson what he wanted, namely prison time in Oregon.  Proceedings elsewhere would require extradition, meaning considerable expense and a lot of red tape.  The Oregon sentence made potential death penalties in other states less likely, and Jesperson knew it.  The no contest plea and subsequent sentence also set the final wheels for Pavlinac and Sosnovskes release from prison into motion.

However, there was another Oregon case involving Jesperson that had to be dealt with in the meantime, the murder of 23-year-old Laurie Ann Pentland.  According to the Marion County District Attorneys office, investigators linked Jesperson to Pentlands murder through DNA and other forensic evidence after learning that Jesperson was the Happy Face Killer.  Jesperson had written letters as the Happy Face Killer after Pentlands murder claiming responsibility for her death and had said that she was an acquaintance that he had contacted via citizens band radio while in the Salem area.  In one of the letters he said that hed had sex with her several times.

I felt so much power, he had written as the Happy Face Killer.  I then told her she was going to die and slowly strangled her.

Jesperson was again sentenced to life in prison in Oregon, with a 30-year minimum term before parole eligibility.  Following his sentencing in Washington he was transferred to the Oregon State Penitentiary to begin serving consecutive sentences.  If he remains alive to complete his sentences in Oregon, he will be transferred to the Washington State Penitentiary to begin serving his life sentence there.

On November 27, 1995, after serving more than four years in prison for a crime they didnt commit, Laverne Pavlinac and John Sosnovske were released from prison.  Jesperson purportedly cried when he learned of their release.  It wasnt known, however, whether his tears were tears of happiness for the couple or tears of regret for having confessed to a murder that he knew he could have gotten away with.

More than two years later and considerable legal wrangling, the State of Wyoming finally succeeded in extraditing Jesperson for trial for the murder of Angela Subrize.  For the next few months as prosecutors prepared to go to trial, Jesperson taunted the authorities and threatened to force a costly trial by changing his story regarding the jurisdiction in which he had killed Angela.  At one point he said that he had killed her in Wyoming, and at another point he claimed that he had killed her in Nebraska.  After going back and forth for some time surrounding Jespersons deliberate misleading statements in his attempt to confuse authorities on who had jurisdiction to prosecute him, a deal was worked out.  Jesperson agreed to plead guilty to murdering Angela Subrize in Wyoming if Laramie County prosecutors would agree to not seek the death penalty against him.  As a result, on June 3, 1998, District Judge Nicholas Kalokathis sentenced Jesperson to life in prison and ordered that the sentence run consecutive to the two life sentences in Oregon and the life sentence in Washington, leaving little doubt that he would die in prison.  Afterward, he was promptly returned to the Oregon State Penitentiary.

It remains to be seen whether any other jurisdictions, such as the states of Florida or California, will prosecute Jesperson for murders that he confessed to in those states.

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